In addition to be a notorious serial killer who honestly believes that he’s rehabilitating people, John Kramer aka “Jigsaw” is also something of a recruiter and cult leader. Whenever someone passes their “test”, Kramer usually considers them a prime candidate to join the team and carry on his life’s work after he does.
But not all of his disciples are equal in terms of their craft, relationship with Kramer himself, or their adherence to his code. So in honor of Spiral: From the Book of Saw being released this week, we thought it would be fun to look at the four major disciples that Jigsaw recruits, and analyze them based on the aforementioned traits. At the end, we’ll declare a winner who best exemplifies and continues the work of John Kramer.
Note: We’re only considering those people that willingly joined and helped John Kramer in the planning, and implementing of his games. Unwilling accomplices who were forced into helping in order to save themselves (like Zepp Hindle, Obi, Art Blank, and Daniel Rigg) will not be considered.
Let’s begin with the very first apprentice that audiences knew about (as revealed in Saw II), Amanda Young. Having survived the reverse bear trap from the first Saw film, Kramer immediately sees something in her and almost uses her as the poster child of his rehabilitation.
Given her troubled past, she forms a very strong emotional bond with him, going so far to say, “I found myself a father, a leader, a teacher.” Their relationship was much more based around her emotional dependency on him, and we got the sense that she wasn’t really in it for the greater moral and philosophical reasons that he was.
This is revealed in Saw III when her games are unwinnable because she believes that no one is truly reborn, and that this is just about punishing people. But she even struggles with that as she gets pretty emotional and cries when watching Jeff go through his tests. She definitely worshipped Kramer the most, but she didn’t do a very good job of emulating his practices.
Detective Mark Hoffman
Hoffman got his start not from being placed in one of Jigsaw’s games, but rather from pretending to be him in order to get away with killing the man who killed his sister. However Kramer saw potential in him and thus recruited him.
Whereas Amanda’s relationship with him was very emotional and father/daughter in nature, Hoffman’s seems much more professor/student oriented. It was as if Kramer saw Hoffman do everything wrong, and wanted to correct it. So we get a lot of great flashback scenes of Hoffman helping to set up the nerve gas house from Saw II, or putting Paul in his razor wire game in the first film, and each time, Kramer imparts knowledge and philosophy unto Hoffman.
These include being able to think about ever possible outcome, as well as making sure the heart is never part of it. While most of his games are winnable, Hoffman’s problem is he doesn’t care about rehabilitation at all, rather he’s nothing more than a crooked cop who enjoys the power that brutalizing people gives him.
A true sadist, Hoffman views his test subjects merely as degenerates who deserve what they’re getting, and if they survive, good for them. He’s far more emotionally stable and rational than Amanda, but that makes him far more dangerous wielding the Jigsaw methods.
Doctor Jill Tuck
Being John Kramer’s ex-wife, Jill knew him longer than anyone else here, and knew what he was like before starting his “work”. Despite this, she doesn’t really come into the game itself until much later.
Though she’s aware of it from early on, following Amanda’s visit back to the clinic and Jill’s amazement of how different she is now. And while she was never a major player, it was very much Kramer’s dying wish that she take an active role in the game after his death.
After all he leaves her the box of subjects who end up being part of the cooperation game in Saw V, and it’s Hoffman who takes it from her by force, insisting that he control everything here on out.
Her rivalry with Hoffman in Saw VI and The Final Chapter seem like a spiritual clash between Jigsaw’s true philosophy and a bastardization based around brutality that Hoffman uses.
Ultimately, she knew Kramer best and was meant to be his successor, and the only reason she ends up dying is because she didn’t have the time to develop the same planning and survival skills that Kramer and Hoffman had.
Doctor Lawrence Gordon
Another survivor who demonstrated the will to live and passed his test, Kramer nurses Dr. Gordon back to health after the events of the first Saw film, and thus begins a series-long partnership that the audience doesn’t find out about until the end.
Gordon’s relationship with Kramer seems to be the most professional in nature. From what we can gather, Gordon wasn’t actively involved with the designing, planning, and carrying out of the numerous test and Kramer, Amanda, and Hoffman were doing. Rather, he was a sort of medical consultant who assisted whenever surgical precision was required.
In a seemingly strange twist, none of the others even knew that Gordon was involved, which does raise some logistical questions. And while Kramer does call Gordon his greatest asset, and tells him that, “without you my work over the last few years would not have been possible”, it’s difficult to call Gordon a true “disciple”. Unless he was also running his own tests on unappreciative people, he’s really more of a medical consultant.
Doctor Logan Nelson
Some fans will argue that this character shouldn’t even be counted as 2017’s Jigsaw barely follows the continuity of the main series, and it creates more than a few plot holes with the first 7 movies.
However, Dr. Nelson deserves a mention because he’s another very early accomplice who looks like he was more involved in learning the “appreciate your life” philosophy than designing games and death traps. This of course doesn’t stop him from doing it 10 years later to expose a corrupt detective.
While not much is known about his relationship with Kramer, or what he was up to during the first 7 movies, we do know that he was spared due to an accident in his own test, and that he painstakingly recreated the exact same one a decade later. He gets points for fortitude, but loses them for never actually doing anything of his own, and also for being randomly tacked on to a mythology that was already seemingly complete.
Final Verdict – Doctor Jill Tuck
In a surprise victory, it’s honestly Jill who best embodies her ex-husband’s philosophy and plan. After all, her own life’s work was always about rehabilitation, and after seeing how successful his model was, she was the perfect candidate to continue it.
With her in control and Hoffman’s technical prowess, they actually would have made a very strong team. Ultimately she dies because she didn’t properly think about every possible outcome. But that’s a lesson that could have easily been taught, and properly perpetuating Jigsaw’s morals and philosophy was the much harder challenge, one that she had down.
Which Jigsaw disciple is your favorite and why? Let us know in the comments!